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Convict Hell | Big Sky Publishing


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Convict Hell

Macquarie Harbour 1822-1833

Authors: David W. Cameron
History, True Crime
153mm x 210mm


Book #1 in the Shot of History Series

The year 2022 marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the penal settlement at Macquarie Harbour. This convict penal settlement located on the isolated primeval rugged west coast of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) quickly gained a reputation as an ‘Earthy Hell’.

Colonial historian John West succinctly recorded in 1852: ‘The name Macquarie Harbour is associated exclusively with remembrance of inexpressible depravity, degradation, and woe. Sacred to the genius of torture, Nature concurred with the objects of its separation from the rest of the world, to exhibit some notion of a perfect misery. There, man lost the aspect and the heart of man …. This region is lashed with tempests: the sky is cloudy, and the rain falls more frequently than elsewhere. In its chill and humid climate, animal life is preserved with difficulty; half the goats died in one season, and sheep perished; vegetation, except in its coarsest and most massive forms is situated and precarious …. The passage to this dreary dwelling place was tedious and often dangerous. The prisoners, confined in a narrow space, were tossed for weeks on an agitated sea. As they approached, they beheld a narrow opening chocked with a bar of sand and crossed with peril. This they called Hell’s Gate – not less appropriate to the place than to the character and torment of the inhabitants: beyond they saw impenetrable forests, skirted with an impervious thicket; and beyond still enormous mountains covered with snow, which rose to the clouds like walls of adamant: every object wore the air of rigour, ferocity, and sadness’.

This was just the beginning for those sentenced to Macquarie Harbour the barbaric treatment from officials and fellow convicts alike, resulted in Macquarie Harbour representing a true convict hell hole, not only resulting in murder, but in cannibalism by several men in their attempts to escape.

David W. Cameron

David W. Cameron

David W. Cameron completed his PhD in 1995 and was subsequently awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Australian National University, followed by an ARC QEII Fellowship at the University of Sydney. He has published a number of books on Australian military history and science and over sixty research papers in […]

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